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A/N: Thanks to Dave for his help with Scarabaeus. Without him, I still wouldn’t have updated – for lack of a plot. And another cookie to Meridith once more for all her betaing work – she read and corrected the whole story so far.



Seven Thirteenths of a scale of powdered Ridgeback claw.

Three stirs clockwise.

Seventeen drops of Unicorn blood.

Wait one minute.

Two stirs counter clockwise.

Wait two days.

And that was just the beginning of the brewing process, Snape thought. This Egyptian potion would take a lot longer than he had estimated, especially with the changes he would have to make.

He didn’t yet know what exactly he could do. Of course, if he just left out one step of the instructions, the potion wouldn’t work anymore. But the Dark Lord would never believe that that was an accident. He also couldn’t make all possible improvements because Dumbledore would find out. No, he would have to find something very, very subtle – either way.

Snape took up his translations of the papyrus again. According to the notes, he would have to add two bezoars to the potion in two days.

This struck him as very unusual. Nowadays everyone knew that one bezoar neutralised poison while adding more of them could have unwanted side effects. Admittedly not everyone knew it, but it was still true.

Maybe this had not been known to the ancient Egyptians… Snape decided to try it with one bezoar. The potion could only get more powerful by that.

He fetched a quill and made a note about it on the parchment.

Suddenly a glass of ink came flying out of nowhere and missed the cauldron only by inches. It shattered on the floor, sending splashes of black ink in all directions.

“Peeves!” Snape hissed menacingly.

“Oh, Professor! I didn’t know you were working!” Peeves said, trying to sound innocent.

Snape scowled at Peeves and stepped over to his cauldron to clean up the mess. Peeves still swooped around the room just below the ceiling, but he made a point of not throwing anything else.

The poltergeist went into a dive over Snape’s desk and tried to catch a glimpse of the parchment lying there. He had barely read a few lines when the parchment rolled up on its own account.

Clearly nervous now, Peeves floated away from the desk.

“Professor,” he inquired cautiously, “why would you want to make that potion better?”

“What’s it to you?” Snape asked back. “And why don’t you go running to Dumbledore and tell him?”

“What if I do?” Peeves asked a little frightened.

“Well, I couldn’t keep you, could I?” Snape replied silkily and with a malevolent smile.



“I don’t think the new portraits should go to the third floor, Albus. The Minister will want to see them in a more prominent place,” McGonagall pointed out to Dumbledore. They were sitting in his office and enjoying a cup of tea.

“True, but on the other hand –“ Dumbledore stopped in mid-sentence.

“Headmaster! Headmaster!” Peeves shouted as he flew straight through the door into the circular room.

“Peeves! What’s the matter with you? And why must interrupt the Headmaster like that?” Minerva inquired indignantly.

“I’m sorry, but it’s important. Headmaster, Snape is working for You-Know-Who!”

“Of course he is. You know he’s our spy, Peeves,” Dumbledore answered gently.

“No, no! I mean he’s really working for the dark side!”

“How did you get any such idea?” McGonagall asked.

“I saw it!” Peeves exclaimed, “You told me about this Egyptian potion, Professor Dumbledore. Snape is working on a way to make it better.”

“But Albus, you said Severus would sabotage the potion,” McGonagall worried, “What if…?”

“It’s okay, Peeves, I’ll take care of this. You can go now,” Dumbledore said to Peeves. The poltergeist let himself drop through the floor, but he was clearly not happy about Dumbledore’s reaction.

When they were alone again, Dumbledore said to McGonagall, “I don’t think so, Minerva. I suppose Severus is just working out all possible options for how the recipe can be changed.”

“Yes, that’s possible,” McGonagall admitted reluctantly, “but I still think you are a bit too trusting about Severus.”

“I have reasons, Minerva, very solid reasons.”

“You always said so, yes…”

“I’m not going to share these reasons, not even with you. They are too personal. Minerva,” he said with a consoling smile. “Why don’t you just trust me with this?”

“I do trust you, Albus. You know that’s not the point. With all due respect; if Severus is spying for us, he manages to deceive You-Know-Who somehow. That’s not an easy feat. Why should he not be able to lie to you as well?”

“You are perfectly right. He probably could. But he doesn’t. I’m sorry, Minerva, but I can’t explain this to you. Not yet, at least,” Dumbledore said and took a sip of tea. “Now, as for the portraits…”

Minerva sighed; she had always wondered if you had to have a difficult personality to be a great wizard.



“Nagini, I’ve been wondering,” Voldemort said, stroking his pet snake gently, “When we get this potion… You know, my dear, it will make me a lot stronger and more powerful. I can do anything. What do you think we should start with? Immortality… Ruling the world… Oh Nagini, I’m in a philosophical mood today… Unlimited possibilities…”

A knock on the door interrupted his musings.

“Yes?” Voldemort said.

The door opened, and Snape entered the room.

“Good evening, my Lord,” he said.

“Good evening, Severus. Any news?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. There might be a way to make this potion work at all, and there’s also a remote chance to even improve it a bit.”

“That’s wonderful! How long will it take?” Voldemort wanted to know, his eyes gleaming.

“That’s the bad part. It could well take several weeks. And I will have to go back to Egypt, I didn’t find all the ingredients here,” Snape replied.

“That’s a pity. We will have to wait, then…,” Voldemort added in Nagini’s direction.

“Dumbledore might suspect something. I think he still trusts me, but I have no idea exactly how much more our relationship can take. I may have to work yet more slowly.”

“Not a problem. Just do it as fast as you can, but don’t risk too much. I want this potion,” Voldemort said.

“Of course, my Lord,” Severus answered and left with a bow.

There was a minute of silence after he had gone, and then Voldemort turned to Nagini once more.

“Do you trust him, dear?”

Nagini didn’t answer. She just slithered a little closer to the large fireplace.

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